Prayer is an open communication line so that God can see our hearts in their full authenticity, mould them and shape them so that the desires of our heart are in line with the desires of His will. Not so that He can give us what we want apart from His will, but He can give us a heart that desires His will.
So how do we pray? Jesus says in Matt 6:5-8 when we pray, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. He also doesn’t say if you pray; He says when you pray.
The wrong way to pray invariably involves using meaningless repetition of words. Jesus says do not engage in such ritualistic, meaningless repetition like a mantra or a chant. The word in Greek translated as “meaningless repetition” in our Bibles is actually the word for “babbling” or “stammering."
Buddhists chant, Catholics recite the rosary, Jews recite daily prayers, and many unsaved in Protestant churches recite liturgy. Understanding this connection between a lack of saving faith and a reliance on mantra, is key to understanding the true nature of prayer.
Prayer is, by definition, a form of communication with God, a conversation that we initiate with the Creator of the Universe. It’s a conversation that comes from our heart, and like all communication, it has a sender, receiver and a message. It’s personal and specific, the Scriptures say that by the blood of Christ, we may approach God boldly with our petitions. This is a high honor and an incredible privilege that Jesus died to make possible.
So, if we take that special opportunity and toss it aside in exchange for mindless chanting, we’re trampling the grace of God. This was the way Pharisees instructed Israel to practice prayer, but historically, Judaism never relied on prepared, scripted memories for prayer. From the beginning, all Jewish prayer was supposed to be extemporaneous. We can see examples of Old Testament characters, like Moses or David or Nehemiah, praying without a script. When these men prayed, they simply cried out to God from their hearts, as God intended. Yet by the time of Jesus, the unbelieving Pharisees had instituted repetitious prayer, because that’s all they knew of God. Jews had daily prayer books, Sabbath prayer books, prayer books for special holy days, such as Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah, etc. Mindless repetition took the place of meaningful conversation
When we turn off our brain and revert to mindless repetition, we’re merely pretending to communicate with God, without actually doing it. We’re going through the motions, yet in reality, we’re checked-out of the process.
So knowing how not to pray, Jesus then gives us the right way to approach our conversation with God in Matt 6:9-13, otherwise known as the "Our Father". Let’s acknowledge that this prayer has led to perhaps the greatest irony in all the Bible that many Christians use this prayer in a way that is deliberately contrary to what Jesus expected. Jesus just finished teaching the Church not to engage in repetitious prayer and yet, what prayer do Christians mindlessly repeat more than perhaps any other? The “Our Father” prayer. Praying these words verbatim actually displays a lack of understanding of the context of Jesus’ words, not an appreciation for them
Instead, we are to pray according to the format structure as explained by Jesus. In general, our prayer life should touch upon these areas, at least periodically.
First, The destination for our prayers, and Jesus says in v.9, that our prayers should be directed to the Father Who is in Heaven. The Person of God Who receives prayer is the Father – not Jesus, not the Holy Spirit, but the Father. Jesus is our High Priest, Who intercedes on our behalf with the Father, and by His blood, our petitions may come before a holy God. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, Who guides us in our prayer life, instructing us on when and how to pray. This is why we say "In Jesus Name, Amen."
Secondly, Jesus says at the end of v.9, that we should declare, “hallowed be your name." The word “hallowed” means “sanctified”, set apart for holiness. So we’re saying God alone is holy, set apart from the rest of Creation. Our prayer life should include time glorifying and praising the Father for Who He is and what He has done for you in Christ. Think of it as a private time of worship
Thirdly, Jesus says in v.10, we should be Kingdom-minded in our prayers. Jesus is saying we need to have eyes for eternity in our prayers. Yes, our lives on earth will give us ample material to pray about but don’t forget that this world and all its problems are passing away and one day, Jesus will return and His Kingdom will be set up on earth and when that happens, we will be in new, eternal bodies that will never die, serving Christ without sin or shame
Fourthly, Jesus says in v.11, to pray for your daily bread, which means to pray for your personal needs. Remember this is a model, not a prescription, so we aren’t all necessarily going to pray for bread literally. Our daily needs vary, and so will our prayers. So whether that’s a financial need, a health need, a relationship need, or whatever, bring them before the Lord
Fifthly, Jesus says make room in your prayer life for forgiveness, both for yourself and for others. We should spend some time confessing our sins to the Lord and seeking His forgiveness. Ask the Lord to help us come to resolution with others’ offenses against us, so that we can truly let them go and find forgiveness for others
Finally, Jesus says our prayers should include a request for protection from spiritual warfare. Satan is real and so are the demonic angels that followed him in rebellion against the Father. They are present in the world, operating continuously and aware of who their enemies are. As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, we are enemies of the enemy and his forces and therefore, we are going to experience their attacks from time to time − even more so, as we become more effective witnesses for Jesus. We need prayer-cover to withstand their attacks. We need to pray that the Lord would protect us from falling for the schemes of the enemy
So in summary, we don’t want to practice our prayer life in a hypocritical way, which is praying like those who don’t have a relationship with God. Instead, approach the Father boldly, taking full advantage of what He has made available to us through Christ, and engage Him in a meaningful conversation. In that conversation, structure your prayer to include the six major areas Jesus gave us in His example. Fill in the details with your own words, your own needs, your own desires, from your own heart and as you do, anticipate God’s response…because He will be speaking to you too.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)